I’m going to let a character named Billy Pritchard from my most recent finished feature film screen play make a statement on behalf of us all. Let’s just listen in without any preamble…
Billy steps forward and adjusts the microphone like he’s done it a hundred times.
BILLY-“Brothers and Sisters, let me have a quick word with you. I’m Billy Pritchard. Some of you may know who I am. It’s not important. I used to have a Sunday morning television show. That’s not why I’m here. I’m here because, well, you’re not ready to go home yet are you? Happy Independence to all of you!”
The crowd answers with enthusiasm.
Billy looks off stage now. The crowd sounds intensify. He’s getting a nod from the stage manager, so he goes on. He looks down at Sallassa who is waving at him with a big smile. Donna is next to her beaming with pride.
Jules is at the foot of the stage with the camera tilted up at Billy shouting directions.
JULES-“We’re live. Go preacher.”
BILLY-“I’ve always believed in heaven and hell.”
He pauses, gathering courage. Some in the crowd murmur their encouragement.
BILLY-“You know, unbelievers liked to make fun, but I ask you, believers and unbelievers alike, what more literal proof of a bona-fide hell does anyone need? As we live and breathe, the flaming bowels of the under world swell with fires from, petroleum and nuclear origins, in which you, me and our dear Mother Nature are slowly roasting.”
The crowd makes a collective groan.
BILLY-“The very air and skies are burning which was predicted by the prophets. You say “But the Lord was supposed to come and take us first.” SORRY! That happened, some say sixty years ago. Everybody knows the atomic bomb was the Antichrist. Stop pretending that you didn’t know that. Do the math.”
Blacky has been standing about half way back from the stage and he’s heard enough. Woolman stands next to him.
On a screen in his mind, Billy hunkers down into his familiar crouch. His body remains standing though, stage struck, trembling before the sight of Blacky. Then Billy sees the camera and gazes in to the tunnel of Jules’ lens.
BILLY-“You say, ‘ Well If this is hell, why didn’t God take my God fearing grandma?’”
BLACKY(shouts above him)-“This man’s speech is unclean.”
JULES-No sir. He’s talking about Hell in the bible.
BILLY-“I’m saying we become captives of that place even before we die.”
BLACKY-“That’s foolishness from a fool.”
BILLY-“I beg your pardon sir, but, the Lord promised,’I am retuning very soon,’ did he not? It’s been a long, long time since somebody said the Lord said that. I’m here to tell you the Judgment Day is past and over with and we did not pass over with it. So get over it.”
Woolman makes his very first utterance.
WOOLMAN-“Boo.” A few others join in
Billy cocks his head at him, puzzled, but manages to keep momentum.
BILLY-“We’ll pass with the gas of the underworld now with a grievous longing for the artifacts of heaven, which we gave up far too easily here on earth.”
BLACKY-“Hold your tongue.”
BILLY-“I know it’s a shock. I’m sorry. It’s hard to believe, but we’re damned.”
A few more in the crowd join in. Jules is rubbernecking now, capturing the confrontation ground zero.
BILLY-“What if it’s true? Think about it.”
BLACKY-“Stop now, Voice of Satan.”
More booing ensues. Suddenly there is a screech in the crowd nearby. It is Bo, the fiddle player, strafing his strings. All eyes go to the noise on which the fiddler capitalizes.
BO-“I’ve never heard anyone talk like this man. I’m curious. Isn’t everybody else? I say let him speak. It’s only his opinion.”
With that his bow strikes fiddle strings once more. The crowd generally goes with him, some even applaud and whistle. Blacky shouts over the noise.
BLACKY-“That one is bogus too. They’re working this crowd.”
BO-“Come on. Let him perform. Everybody else has. Free speech is what 4th of July’s about.”
BLACKY-“Devil speaks in him.”
JULES-“Hells bells. It’s show business. Shut up and let a devil work.”
Billy waits. Now the crowd rally’s for him. Billy has their attention and so must speak. He fixes his eyes on Blacky.
BILLY-“What’s your argument with me, brother? I’m not defending opinions, dogmas, ideologies, gossip, none of that.”
Woolman starts making for the back of the crowd.
BILLY-“Whichever way we’ve disagreed about how things ought to be done, there are really only five simple needs: clean air, food, water, shelter, and security. That’s all it takes to make this earth a paradise, for everyone. This is the meaning of the cross. That’s all there is. Don’t you keep asking yourself, how hard can it be? I do. Why are we waiting? Have we abandoned ourselves and fallen so far back that we could not even see the Lord when he came and divided His winners from The Enemy’s losers?”
Billy claps his hands for emphasis.
BILLY-“Boom! The righteous, just, off they went without notice. Nobody bothered to tell the losers. Is that it?”
Crowd answers a resounding “no”.
BILLY-“I hope not either. But, friends and strangers, believers and non-believers, we don’t have to live like this. Heaven exists for us now if we want it. This earth can be a paradise. We could provide the necessities for ourselves, and each other. The command, to love one another, grants us total freedom to achieve that dream. That awful smog in the air is the burning consequence of our refusal to do so thus far.’
Billy’s look into Jules’ lens lets us know he knows is a close up.
BILLY-“Ladies and gentlemen. That man has followed me for days pretending he did not have the gift of speech. That he is choosing to reveal his voice now, I find startlingly suspicious.”
Blacky-“You are a disgraced preacher.”
To cut it off, Billy quickly folds hands and bows head.
BILLY-“Thank you for your time and attention ladies and gentlemen. From the bottom of my heart, I ask your blessing and forgiveness. May the Lord bless and forgive us all.”
He surrenders the microphone and plunges into the crowd after Woolman.